A Tale of Marriage, Medicine and Murder

What does 'Radiation' mean?

Find out what Radiation means. Radiation is explained by Margaret McMillion - author of PERSONAL BAGGAGE


Radiation is used on patients with cancer to alter atoms in the chemical systems of rapidly-growing cells. It is the treatment of choice for tumors that cannot be removed surgically, and is effective in destroying cancer cells, preventing their spread, and may relieve pain and keep the patient comfortable for a time.

Radiation involves repeated exposures to small doses of X-ray irradiation directed to provide effective ionization within the tumor while avoiding unnecessary irradiation of normal structures. The patient, who will not feel the rays, must remain perfectly still during the process, and will not be considered radioactive after the procedure. The radiologist’s marking of the spot for radiation must not be washed off between treatments, and it is impossible to predict in advance how many treatments will be necessary.

The amount of damage to tissue varies with the dosage, intensity of radiation, and the nature of the site to be irradiated. Side effects are nausea, vomiting, fever, loss of appetite, and some form of skin reaction. The skin will remain sensitive long after treatment. Bone marrow is one of the most radiosensitive of normal tissue, and damage to bone marrow, potentially the most lethal complication of excessive irradiation, results in bleeding and decreased resistance to infection.

In PERSONAL BAGGAGE on page 180 Maureen tells Penny that she finished radiation and got through the first round of outpatient chemo, but her blood cell counts dropped so low that her chemo was stopped in the middle of her second round. Now unable to fight infection, she is on reverse isolation, and has come to the hospital for blood transfusions.

Search result for 'radiation' in PERSONAL BAGGAGE

Chapter 13: Chapter Thirteen
"...He’s had all the radiation he can take, and Dr. Benson’s maxed him out on chemo. So now we’re trying to support him through nadir, right? The plan is to relieve his pain and keep him free from infection until his bone marrow can recover and make new cells, and then send ..."

Chapter 15: Chapter Fifteen
"...Penny had been warned about the sisters in Report: they were suing a nursing home because their mother, eighty-seven years old with advanced ovarian cancer, had fallen out of bed. They then brought her to Oncology requesting aggressive treatment. Yet, when Dr. Hutton ordered radiation and the ambulance had been summoned to transport her, they had refused to let her go to the radiation clinic. ..."
"... be strong—if she let down at all it would be like a leak in the dike. “The pathologist’s report said my cancer was widespread with seeding. I start radiation treatments next week, and after that comes chemotherapy.” Staggered by the gravity of Maureen’s illness, Penny placed a hand on ..."

Chapter 17: Chapter Seventeen
"... moved toward the hall door. “Penny, have you talked to Maureen?” “I think she’s at home; she was hoping to be discharged Friday, and then return for radiation and chemotherapy. I’ll call her this morning.” When breakfast arrived, Penny served Jane in her wheelchair and then ..."

Chapter 18: Chapter Eighteen
"...“You know most of it from Report...but I’ll tell you anyway. I got through radiation and the first round of outpatient chemo just fine, but Dr. Benson stopped my treatments in the middle of the second round because my counts dropped so low. I can’t fight infection, so unless my bone marrow recovers and begins making white cells, he won’t order any more ..."

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"A nurse juggles jobs at two Mississippi hospitals, aging parents and a stressed marriage in McMillion's novel .... a comprehensive..."

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